Poetry Review: Sam Sax’s ‘bury it’

bury it
Sam Sax
Wesleyan University Press, 2018

Cover of 'bury it' by Sam Sax.q: is all queer poetry political?

a participant in a seminar i ran on queer poetry asked me this + i faltered, i answered w/[    ], burying deeper the coffin of queer presumption.

later, i wanted to be the i in one of Claudia Rankine’s CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC poems. an i that can go back in time + say the right thing at the right time, an i out of time.

later, i thought of Cam Awkward-Rich

I’ve also been in workshops where people try to relate everything I produce to transness, which—while I’m sure it’s possible to do, because I’m always trans—seems silly/reductive/limiting, especially when it cuts off other interpretations.

in bury it sax’s i goes back again + again to reinterpret + challenge the reader’s presumptions of (queer) existence. the dead are dredged from the water, from the mouth of disease, from silence, from joy, from desire. he creates the effect of PENTIMENTO (9), a layered time where previous work is evidenced in traces showing composition + process

& pulls up boy,

after boy,
after boy,


through poetic tropes of apostrophe + prosopopoeia, + a fluidity of form w/essay, ode, elegy, novel, found, script, these boys are reproduced in poetics, cut into the white of the page, the reader left exclaiming

o to be so fluid you can hold
another’s shape
& stay the same thing


Sam Sax instagram screenshot.(i take this screen shot from sam sax’s Instagram story + think it’s the perfect explanation for bury it but reviews have to be more than screenshots, right?)

the collection is divided into 5 sections corresponding to types of bridges: ROPE, DRAW, STONE, TOLL, SUSPENSION, w/a poem titled WILL bookending. the self is mined, it looks into water, into glass, into mirrors, searches the inbetween. this confessional style of (auto)poetics displays the insatiable need of the body for the other, even when the other may condemn, turn the body to salt:

the body
is ink in the earth. the grave marker,
a gathering together of text.

BURY, 15

one word can be found inside some of these poems + read as a descriptor for the collection in a hermeneutic loop of parts w/in the whole; simulacrum (17), displaced (57), disillusion (62), absence (67) . . . there’s a truth to be found, buried inside each poem to reveal the illusion, expose the man behind the wizard:

the truth is that the
bridge is painted continuously
Golden Gate Bridge
Tourist Website


how far is our construction from our destruction?

sax forces the reader to question not just the selves he creates on the page, but the reader’s assumptions about the autobiographical truth behind the poetic truth. sax unearths our deep need for the i in poems to be alive, to be (to borrow from Stephanie Burt) like us, to make us feel less lonely in a world where technology, grief + violence separate us

i mean any word
traced to its origin is a small child begging for water.


sax risks exposure, he courts shame to bring us back to our bodies, which sweat, blush, come + bleed. w/out these risks there is only [    ], w/out questioning, w/out discourse, what does it mean to exist?

there’s a theory
that says you don’t exist
unless someone calls
& you respond


in sum:

‘I’ll go,’ I said and I did go, and all during the simple funeral service I wondered what I thought I was burying.

—Sylvia Plath, THE BELL JAR

Emer Lyons has poetry and fiction published in The Cardiff Review, Southword, Mimicry, Turbine, The Spinoff and more. She is a PhD candidate in contemporary queer poetry at the University of Otago, Dunedin.

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